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EA Sports Maui Invitational

November 18, 2012 - Leah Sherman
Oh, Thanksgiving week, how I love you. A whole week of some of my favorite things — food, shopping and basketball.

Wait, basketball? Maxing out at 5 feet 3 inches tall, and coming from a state where girls played 6-on-6 (which is ridiculously boring to both play and watch) well into my high school years, I don't think a lack of interest in basketball would be unreasonable. But the speed of the game and the easily understandable rules ranks it high on my likeability meter.

I guess I've been a fan for quite some time: As a kid in the 1980s, I watched hours and hours of Iowa basketball on TV with my grandmother. She was a huge BJ Armstrong fan.

Other times, friends of my parents who lived out in the country and couldn't get the Hawkeyes' games would come over to watch at our house. That would mean ordering pizza for dinner and staying up past my bedtime to watch the game.

Then there was the Duke team with Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill. While other high school girls had “Tiger Beat-style” posters decorating their lockers, one of my friends and I kept action shots and detailed stats in ours. I mean, come on, Laettner's 1992 buzzer-beater against Kentucky — AH-MAZE-ING. He was drafted that year by the Minnesota Timberwolves and, after a lot of begging and pleading, my dad agreed to buy tickets and drive four hours so I could see him play.

So, yeah, I like basketball. And that means that I get really excited when the EA Sports Maui Invitational comes around.

Due to our work schedules (and the high price of tickets), my husband and I are limited to one game per year. But it always so much fun. The Lahaina Civic Center's gym is so small that it allows an amazing view of top-notch college basketball, no matter which game you see. The teams' boosters add a palpable excitement to the place.

We always situate ourselves in the stands so that our families on the Mainland can catch a glimpse of us on TV, since all of the games are broadcast on one of ESPN's channels. And one year, myself, former Maui News photographer Amanda Cowan and former Maui News Staff Writer Kehaulani Cerizo all ended up in the background of a two-page photo in Sports Illustrated. (My husband still kicks himself for stepping away to take a phone call or get a drink — I don't remember what he was doing but he wasn't in the photo.)

Because the venue is so small, there are unexpected moments that, as a basketball fan, you just can't believe. One year I allegedly almost collided with Roy Williams as we were leaving at the end of a game and his team was coming out for warm-ups. I never saw him, but my husband swears it happened. And, in 2004, unrelated to the Hawkeyes playing in the tournament that year, Armstrong was at the game we attended. After seeing other fans approach him at halftime, I decided to do the same. I made a complete fool of myself — I choked up, thinking of grandma and how she adored him, and was gasping for air as I sputtered, “I watched you play at Iowa.” (There may have even been tears. I was a blubbering idiot.) He was incredibly polite, signing my ticket and attempting to make small talk for a few seconds. It was so cool.

The 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational tips off at the Lahaina Civic Center on Monday with four games daily through Wednesday. This year's teams are host Chaminade, North Carolina, Marquette, Mississippi State, Butler, Texas, Southern California and Illinois.

According to the tournament website, tickets are still available and can be purchased by phone at (808) 667-DUNK (3865) or in person at the civic center box office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; 8 am. until 30 minutes after the last game Monday and Tuesday; and 8 a.m. until after halftime of the championship game Wednesday.


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A TV screen shot. That's me in the red over a Saint Joseph's player's shoulder during the 2008 tournament.


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